Episode 19: Laura's July 2020 Reading

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, Laura shares the 20 books she read in July!   From non-fiction to middle grade, fantasy fiction to romance, There's a lot of good books here. So let's dive right in!

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How To Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg and Kirsten Meinzer - I loved listening to Jolenta and Kristen when they were on Anne Bogel's Stay-at-Home Book Tour this spring. This book is what they learned from their 3 years of the podcast By The Book. While my life looks pretty different from Jolenta or Kristen's, I found many of their insights and experiences to be witty and engaging. 

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman - I LOVED this book. Nina would love to just be alone and read books, but life has other plans for her. She works at a bookshop, which I love. She talks to her cat, Phil, like he's a sentient being. It turns out that one of the guys at her pub trivia nights is pretty cute. She has a birth father that she's never met who just past away, and a slew of new family members to which she needs to acclimate. Long story short, life is about to get complicated. This book was smart and sweet and totally readable. 

Beach Read by Emily Henry - According to the author's note, this book is about writers block. It's also a sweet and spicy romance. It also handles some pretty deep and troubling themes such as suicide cults, parents with cancer, martial unfaithfulness...which is a lot. I did enjoy the audiobook of this one, and it was on the Summer Reading Guide list from Modern Mrs. Darcy. I love her description of it as "a warm and delightfully meta take on love, writing, and second chances." 

The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers - I went on a Mister Rogers kick several months ago and this book is the tail end of that journey. Every time I hear about him or read his writing, I grieve a little bit that we don't have his wise and loving voice to speak into the craziness of life right now. But his words from years ago still ring true. If you need a proverbial hug and reminders of what's important, this book is for you. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - I read this book with an anti-racism book club. It's written as a letter from father to son, which is deeply impactful. Coates focuses on the "Black body" and all the threats to it, but that "Black is beautiful—which is to say that the black body is beautiful." He also describes the American Dream harmful because, as he describes, "You and I, my son, are that “below.” That was true in 1776. It is true today. There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream." I have almost 40 highlights in this book on my Kindle. I could easily go back and read it again and still learn and understand more. If you're looking for a book about race that engages you both mentally and emotionally, this is a good option. 

Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons From the Fog of New Parenthood by Lucy Knisley - As you heard on the episode with Jewel Gilbert, I love the art of Lucy Knisley. So of course I had to read one of her newer books. This one was a cute and sweet mediation on new motherhood. 

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley - On Episode 11, Whitney suggested I read this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. A notebook written by and old man joins together an unlikely collection of people and changes their lives in ways they wouldn't have ever thought possible. Heartwarming and realistic. 

Angel From the Rust by Jason Link (Unpublished ARC) - A special thanks to the author, Jason Link, who is a part of the "Rabbit Room Chinwag" group on Facebook and was looking for beta readers. I very much enjoyed his book and can't wait to see it published. His blurb for the book currently reads as follows, "In a distant future Earth where society has become medieval and our modern technology is regarded as ancient “magic,” a young musician running from the law must defeat a murderer who has bewitched an entire city into thinking he’s a god." The world-building and characters were really interesting. Like Station Eleven, it made me think about the good and bad things that come from technology in the modern world. 

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly - I have enjoyed everything I've read by Erin Entrada Kelly. This one won't be my favorite, just because the subject matter was sobering. It follows a set of siblings during the months leading up to the failed launch of the Challenger in 1986. It was kind of weird reading "historical fiction" from just a few years before I was born. But for kids in middle school, these events are almost ancient history at this point. It was an empathetic and educational take on the events. And since it was mostly the school children of America that were watching the footage live, and most adults were at work, telling the story from the eyes of school children totally made sense. 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks - This was one of the stand-out books for me this month (maybe this year?) and I'm so glad that Kris from @noextrawords told me about it. I literally didn't get up from the couch from the moment I opened the first page to the last word. I can't tell you the last time I read a book in one sitting. It was just that good. Zoe has a pretty normal middle school life--she's trying to figure out how to feel about the boy next door, she loves to cook, she's trying to get good grades in school and get along with her parents. Then, on her 12th birthday, she gets a letter from her biological father, who's been in prison the whole time she's been alive. Without her mom's permission, she responds to the letter. As they write back and forth she learns more about her bio-dad. Then she asks more questions about why he's in jail in the first place, which leads her to information about wrongful convictions and the Innocence Project.  It's hard to categorize this book, but it's something of a coming-of-age, cooking, detective, family story. 

Threshold by Bill Myers - I'm still hanging out with my family for FaceTime story time most evenings. Dad finished reading aloud the second book in the Fire Of Heaven series and are now working on the 3rd one. Threshold is suspenseful and thought provoking in its exploration of paranormal psychology, prayer, prophecy and spiritual warfare. It begins following characters modeled after the witnesses in Revelation, and their stories continue in book 3. It's a wild ride. 

The Crowns Of Croswald by D.E. Night - Stories Untold Press reached out to me on behalf of the author and asked me to read and review this book. She's got several more in the series. I enjoyed the book, which is YA Fantasy. It had lots of nods to Harry Potter, and a strong female heroine with a hero's journey ahead of her. A fun, magical read! 

One of Our Thursdays is Missing (Thursday Next #6) by Jasper Fforde - Here I am, still chugging my way through the Thursday Next series. I enjoyed this book, although it was oddly told from the perspective of the fictional, written version of Thursday who is trying to find the "real" Thursday who is missing. I think my favorite character was Agent Square, and my favorite scene was fictional Thursday having several hours in the real world and trying to figure out how to walk and what gravity really means. Fforde is so stinking brilliant. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal - I totally would have been scared off by this title if it wasn't for the recommendation by a friend. It does in fact have excerpts of some "erotic stories" written by some of the characters throughout the book, some of which are pretty spicy. This was shocking to many of the other characters IN the book because they were allegedly written by the widows, whom many ignore or consider irrelevant. But aside from these excerpts, there is actually way less sexual content throughout the rest of the book than can be found in many romance novels. So take from that what you will. More shocking to me was the covered-up murder of a young woman in the story and the consequences of that on the Sikh community in which the story is based. I've never read a story set in a Sikh community before, so that was probably my favorite thing about the book. The themes of the power of stories and empowerment of women were great too. 

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - This was the book that my Instagram and blog friends voted for me to read for July's The Unread Shelf Project prompt. I'm glad I read it and it was definitely compelling and immersive. The writing was good and it definitely had me wondering what was going to happen. The reveal of information near the end had me wanting to go back and review earlier passages in light of the discovery. However, I'm realizing more and more that I don't love "gothic" fiction. This book was melancholy and sad! There are several things I would consider to be content warnings, too. Feel free to ask if you want details! 

The Lending Library by Aliza Fogelson - I started reading this book about the time I was getting ready to put my little free library out into the world. It was sweet and charming. The library in a small town gets closed down for renovations for almost a year due to asbestos. So Dodie takes it upon herself to build a community library in her sunroom. This book also has really fascinating discussions on adoption and infertility, which I totally wasn't expecting. If you're a part of an adoptive family or dealing with infertility, just know that some of this might hit really close to home. The book love is tangible and sense of community is lovely in this book. I got it for free as an Amazon First Read's pick, can find Kindle book https://amzn.to/3fkfrOh 

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God's Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin - I still don't know exactly how this book ended up on my TBR, but I'm glad it did. I think my mom might have read it and recommended it? Shannan is the wife of a jail chaplin and the mother of several adopted kids. They used to live in the country, but then they moved to the inner city. This book is Shannan's reflections on that shift and what it meant for her own heart and for her family. Especially in light of the conversations around racism going on in our country right now, this book is so, so good. She addresses the issues in her community from a ground-up perspective. The steps she takes might seem mundane or "ordinary" as the title suggests, but the effect that has on her own heart and on her community are bigger than the sum of its parts. Tacos, daily walks, giving rides, hugs, and $5 in an offering bucket...they add up. 

The Diary of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell - This book is exactly what the title suggests, a diary of a bookseller! But he's not your warm and cheery book pusher. Often it almost seems as if he's annoyed that he has customers at all. But he's in the "booktown" of Wigtown, Scotland and his wry observations of bookish people, complaints about his crazy staff members, rants about Amazon, and adventures while buying used books to sell in his shop all add up to be a delightful read. It's funny how the mundane things of life can be interesting if it's not your life. I now follow The Book Shop on Facebook and it's totally worth it!  I'm also now on the hunt for the other books Bythell has written, including Confessions of a Bookseller and Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops which comes out in November. 

The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas (Elemental Trilogy #3) - I finished a series! Apparently this is hard for me, so yay. My sister started this series after me and finished before me. She then begged me to hurry up and read the last book so I could talk about it with her. The Elemental Trilogy was a enjoyable YA Fantasy series with great world-building and interesting characters. The combination of a fantasy realm with the kids attending school at Eaton in the UK was great. Magic, prophecy, and fighting the enemy made this book action-packed to the very end. 

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Modern Retelling of Little Women - Graphic Novel by Rey Terciero & Bre Indigo  - Since I've now read the Little Women, this graphic novel retelling caught my eye. It was modern in some ways that I might not have anticipated, and I'm not sure how I feel about them. But Beth's storyline still predictably made me want to cry. The art was great, and I loved the combination of story panels with email and journal excerpts to tell the story. I also loved the way the authors made the Marches a blended family. All in all it was a great read! 

July 2020 statistics: 
  • Total books: 20
  • Total pages: 6,226 pages*
  • Fiction: 14
  • Non-fiction: 6
  • Owned: 1
  • eBook: 4
  • Audiobook: 5
  • Library book: 7
  • ARC: 2
  • Read aloud with the Rollers: 1 

2020 total books: 109 books
2020 total pages: 32,846 pages*

*A note on page counts: I do convert audiobooks to page numbers in order to keep track of this number. I use the most reasonable page number I can find for the book on Goodreads. So if the hardback has way more pages than the paper back or vice versa, I choose the lower number of pages. Because I do read some shorter books, I decided to keep track of page counts this year too. Because someone else might read only thick tomes and therefore have a lower book count, while I have read lots of shorter books but it might be less pages per book on average. I'm enjoying the data!


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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